KDE4 Desktop Effects

I installed KDE4 on my desktop today so I could finally try out KWin in all its glory. If you haven't tried it yet I highly recommend it. KDE4 with desktop effects enabled is simply gorgeous. It's fast, responsive, and comes with a nice array of effects options.

Dim Inactive is one of the first effects that I enabled and I really like it so far. One of my pet peeves with Oxygen is that it doesn't change the color of a window's title bar to show which is active, but with Dim Inactive enabled this no longer matters. Instead of changing the title bar the windows in the background are darkened to create a clear contrast that makes it easier to focus on the foreground window.

Zoom is enabled by default and essentially takes one of my favorite features in Opera and applies it to the entire desktop. If you have ever wishing you could see something on your screen more clearly then this feature is one you'll enjoy. I did have to change the key board shortcuts though because I couldn't figure out what the meta key referred to. I replaced it with Alt and everything works fine.

Present Windows is another effect that is enabled by default. Simply flick your cursor into the top left corner and it actives an Expose like effect that lays out all of your windows side by side. But these are no static images, each window still updates in real-time if there is any activity like a progress bar, animation, and page loading. Very cool.

Box Switch is an improved Alt-Tab switcher that shows a thumbnail and title for each open window. The switch is lightning fast and shows none of the slight lag I experienced with the standard 2D version.

These are but a few of the available effects and I'm sure the authors will come up with more in the future. If you are looking to give KDE4 a try I highly recommend turning desktop effects on and see how they work for you. The only problem I've experienced is a slight shift in the taskbar that leaves some of the background exposed and a similar shift when Katapult is activated.

If any of you are running with desktop effects enabled on a laptop I would love to know if you've noticed an impact to your battery life. That's been one of the major knocks on Vista, but I haven't heard much about whether KWin (or Compiz for that matter) suffer from the same problem.